Hockey is back! NHL hockey returns today with a series of exhibition games before the Stanley Cup Qualifiers start on August 1st. While the Kraken won’t be playing in this year’s unprecedented 24-team tournament, Seattle hockey fans can still have a rooting interest. The Kraken themselves have said their rooting interest is up for grabs.
I’ll break it down and make the case for (and against) each team. After weighing the cases for and against, I’ve separated the teams into three categories: Probably shouldn’t, Could go either way, and Kraken fan favorites.
Why you should root for them: Because you still can. Since they joined the league in 1970, the Canucks have been the closest NHL team to Seattle. Some in Seattle may have even found themselves become Canucks fans out of geographical convenience. That will all need to end before the Kraken take the ice in 2021. If you’ve found yourself mesmerized by the skill of Elias Pettersen and Quinn Hughes and feel the need to cheer them on, get it out of your system now.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: You’ll need to get used to it. The Kraken and Canucks are destined to be rivals. The last thing Kraken fans need is arrogant Canucks fans after a Stanley Cup win flooding into Climate Pledge Arena in 2021. The Kraken winning a Stanley Cup before the Canucks after spotting them a 50 year head start would be the ultimate rivalry win.
Vegas Golden KnightsEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Vegas has a pair of former Seattle Thunderbirds. Shea Theodore spent four seasons with the Thunderbirds and has established himself as a top pairing NHL defenseman in his time with Vegas. Although we might not get to see him right away, Keegan Kolesar did make the cut and will be on Vegas’ roster for the restart. Kolesar was on the Thunderbirds for four years and put up 31 points in 19 playoff games in their 2017 WHL Championship run.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Vegas is another example of a team that seems destined to be a rival to the Kraken. The Golden Knights will not only be Seattle’s division rival, but will also be the “older brother” between the two recent expansion teams. It seems like it won’t take long for Knights fans to develop an inferiority complex since their younger brother is already starting to outshine them.
In addition to the rivalry, The Golden Knights are the only team you can’t scout. When rooting for any team in the NHL’s restart, you’re likely cheering for a soon-to-be Seattle Kraken player- you just don’t know who. With Vegas, the chances of that are much less. Unlike the other 30 NHL teams, the Golden Knights are exempt from the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft. No use having the Knights advance if you can’t be scouting which player to steal from them.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Why you should root for them: Kraken GM Ron Francis played the last 12 games of his career with the Leafs…so there’s that. Seriously though, The Leafs are a young, skilled team who play an enjoyable brand of hockey. While they are inevitably eliminated by the Boston Bruins every year, it might be fun to see what would happen if they could finally get over that hump.Embed from Getty Images
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Seattle Sounders fans know firsthand how much fun it can be to watch a Toronto team lose. Sorry Toronto FC fans, had to throw that in there. The real reason not to root for the Leafs is the Toronto media machine. If the Maple Leafs do make it past the first round of the playoffs, be prepared to see a barrage of Leafs-centered coverage with every second of game time being mercilessly scrutinized. While the Leafs are a likeable team otherwise, it’s just not worth it.
Why you should root for them: Do you like a good villain? Are you the type of fan who cheers for chaos? If so, you’ll probably want to root for Chicago in the restart. The Blackhawks have become the target of much resentment from fans around the league over the past decade and were essentially out of the playoff picture when the NHL paused in March. If the Blackhawks get on a roll, enjoy the reactions as the rest of the league starts to lose it.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Where to begin? Three Stanley Cups in the last decade, loads of bandwagoners, no Seattle connections, being included in the restart despite being dead last in the Central division so the NHL can bolster TV ratings (this is the playoffs, not the Winter Classic). If you need more reasons not to root for the Blackhawks, talk to NHL fans outside Chicago and I’m sure they’ll give you plenty more.
Why you should root for them: The Avs are young, talented, fun to watch, and fellow members of the team names with no “s” at the end club.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: The Avalanche don’t have any Washington connections. While they’re an exciting team, a Kraken fan can probably find a better rooting interest.
St. Louis Blues
Why you should root for them: Solidarity over lost teams. Both St. Louis and Seattle both know what it’s like to lose a beloved pro sports franchise. Seattle lost the NBA’s SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 (I know, sorry to bring that up) while the Rams relocated from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2015. Both cities won championships shortly after, with the Seahawks winning the 2014 Super Bowl and the Blues winning the 2019 Stanley Cup.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: The Blues just won the Stanley Cup. Unless you’re a fan of the team, back-to-back Cup winners are no fun. That’s really all the reason you need.
Boston BruinsEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Brandon Carlo. Carlo played three seasons in Kennewick, Washington for the WHL’s Tri City Americans. He’s become a steady fixture on a talented Boston blueline.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: If you’ve ever watched a Bruins game on their local NESN feed, you’ll have heard one of the best reasons not to root for them. The Bruins have the the most disliked announcing duo in the NHL led by play-by-play man Jack Edwards. Bias and homerism rule the day in a broadcast that was rated worst in the NHL by both The Athletic and awfulannouncing.com this year. Fans outside of Boston will be glad they won’t have to listen to it in this year’s playoffs.
Could Go Either Way
Why you should root for them: Do you like an underdog? With 71 points in 71 regular season games before the season was paused, the Canadiens are the lowest seed of all the teams in the restart. While many will claim their season shouldn’t have been allowed to continue, there’s a certain excitement to a bottom-seeded team catching fire and pulling off upset after upset. If the Habs are able to pull off such a run, former Tri City Americans goalie and NHL superstar Carey Price will be the reason why.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Are you the kind of fan who can hold a grudge over something that happened a long time ago? How about over 100 years ago? The Montréal Canadiens (yes, these Montréal Canadiens) faced off against the Kraken’s distant ancestors the Seattle Metropolitans in two hard-fought series to decide the Stanley Cup champion in 1917 and 1919.Embed from Getty Images
While the rivalry was intense, both sides exhibited sportsmanship for the greater good in 1919 when the two teams agreed to cancel the final game of the series due to the Spanish Flu pandemic. Will a rivalry that has lied dormant for nearly a century be revived?
Columbus Blue Jackets
Why you should root for them: They’ll probably supply the Kraken with a star player. The Blue Jackets have a history that suggests they might be of help to the Kraken. In the 2017 Expansion Draft, the Jackets gave the Golden Knights a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick to select William Karlsson (and take on David Clarkson’s contract). The trade massively backfired for Columbus, as Karlsson went on to become Vegas’ number one center. Will the Blue Jackets flub their expansion draft strategy again? I’d say it’s likely.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: They’ll probably supply a rival team with a star player. The Jackets already gave the Golden Knights their top center for years to come. They also helped the Los Angeles Kings win two Stanley Cups by trading them Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik for pennies on the dollar in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Calgary FlamesEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Derek Ryan. The Spokane-born center has had an unusual journey to the NHL. He played three seasons with the Spokane Chiefs, then four years at the University of Alberta, then played in Austria and Sweden for another four years before returning to North America. Ryan’s perseverance earned him a place in the NHL as a depth center with the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: While the Flames are mostly pretty likeable, they will be another Pacific Division adversary. Because Seattle will face Calgary so often, a couple Flames players will make rooting for them more difficult. Noted pest Matthew Tkachuk is notorious around the NHL for getting under his opponents’ skin. He will undoubtedly make his presence felt as soon as he has the opportunity to play against the Kraken. Further complicating any attempt to root for the Flames Is the fact that they employ Milan Lucic, whose only remaining skills are slowing down play and sucker punching opponents.
Why you should root for them: Pity? Upon their arrival in 2021, The Kraken are going to kick Arizona out of the Pacific Division, where they’ve been since 1998. The Coyotes’ move to the Central Division will undoubtedly increase their travel miles and cause some unpleasantness in scheduling. On top of the division change, a Coyotes team that seems to constantly struggle with unwanted off-ice drama now has even more as GM John Chayka terminated his contract with the team a few days before the playoffs. A strongly-worded statement from the Coyotes which stated they were “disappointed in his actions and his timing” made clear that this was not an amicable separation. The Coyotes’ players and fans, who had no fault for the front office’s missteps, deserve better. Success in the 2020 Playoffs would be a good start.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: If you’re more inclined to root against a team based on bad front office conduct, the Coyotes have definitely given you reason to do so. On January 30th, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that “it’s believed there are at least 20 incidents of the Arizona Coyotes fitness testing draft eligible players.” This fitness testing was in violation of NHL rules and the Coyotes could face substantial fines. The testing also gives them an unusually big advantage this year, with COVID-19 causing limited access to prospects before the draft.
Why you should root for them: They face the Canucks in the play-in round. The Minnesota Wild will have the first crack at eliminating Seattle’s biggest rival, the Vancouver Canucks. As a rival fan, it would be satisfying to watch Vancouver fans’ lofty playoff hopes be crushed by the world’s okayest hockey team.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: They face the Canucks in the play-in round. Yes, this is a double-edged sword. If the Wild win in the play-in round, Canucks fans will be satisfyingly humbled. However, the joy of the Canucks’ defeat might not last long. If the Wild win, Vancouver will have a 12.5% chance of winning the 2020 Draft Lottery and earning the right to select Alexis Lafrenière. A Wild loss in the play-in would keep the star forward away from the Kraken’s biggest rival.
Edmonton OilersEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Kailer Yamamoto and Ethan Bear. Yamamoto is an easy player for Kraken fans to support. He was born and raised in Spokane then after a brief stint in California returned to his hometown Spokane Chiefs of the WHL to play major junior hockey. While the knock on Yamamoto coming out of junior was his 5’8, 158lb. frame, he’s more than made up for it with an abundance of skill, putting up nearly a point per game this season with the Oilers. The skilled Washingtonian will be a joy to watch on the Oilers’ second line. Ethan Bear played 264 games over four seasons for the Seattle Thunderbirds and was instrumental in their 2017 WHL Championship win. He is now a regular fixture on the Oilers blueline.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: The Oilers are the Pacific Division’s sleeping giant. While the current Oilers core has had limited playoff success, Edmonton’s top-end talent can’t be ignored. Any team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl signed long-term is a potential dynasty if the right complimentary pieces are in place. Playing every game in their home arena this year might help the Oilers finally put it together and realize their potential. It’s probably in the Kraken’s best interest that that doesn’t happen.
Philadelphia FlyersEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Carter Hart. The 21 year old goalie was a star in the WHL for the Everett Silvertips. He won CHL goalie of the year in 2015-16 and 2017-18, becoming the only goalie in CHL history to win the award twice. Hart will be the starting goalie for the Flyers as they head into the bubble.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: With Philadelphia, it’s kind of a love them or hate them thing. This is the city whose fans famously booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus. Chances are, you probably already have an opinion on Philadelphia and their sports teams and I can’t do much to change it.
New York Rangers
Why you should root for them: While the Rangers lack any Washington connections, they are a likable team. Artemi Panarin is a treasure. How can you not root for this guy?
Henrik Lundqvist is near the top of the unofficial annual “veterans who deserve their first Cup” list. Their three headed goaltending monster of Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin, and Alexandar Georgiev will be fun to follow.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: They’re playing the Hurricanes in the qualifying round. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Pittsburgh PenguinsEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Patrick Marleau. The former Seattle Thunderbirds star is still chasing his first Stanley Cup in his 22nd NHL Season. With 562 goals, 1188 points, two Olympic Gold Medals, and the 5th most games played in NHL history, a Stanley Cup is the only thing missing from Marleau’s résumé. Seeing Marleau finally win hockey’s ultimate prize would be pretty great.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Like the Blackhawks, the Penguins are a modern dynasty with the current core having won three Stanley Cups in the last 11 years. With that success has come (not entirely unfounded) accusations of favoritism from the NHL and a lot of resentment. Let’s just say you’ll make a lot more friends around the league if you cheer against Pittsburgh.
Why you should root for them: Seattle Seahawks fans appreciate a good defense when they see it. While the Predators’ blueline isn’t quite the Legion of Boom, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm are a defensive trio unmatched in the NHL. If you like cheering for star defensemen, look no further.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Chances are at some point in the future, Predators fans will be smashing a car with the Kraken logo on it.
Weird, I know.
Why you should root for them: Not to pile on to the overplayed Panthers stereotype, but this team needs all the fans it can get. Since the Kraken can’t play until 2021, why not lend your support to the team who could use it the most in the mean time?
Why you shouldn’t root for them: They’re far away. At a distance of 2,707 miles (4,357 km.) away, the Panthers, who play their home games in Sunrise, Florida, are the furthest team from the Kraken. That’s a 59 hour drive!
Why you should root for them: Whenever you hear the Jets team name, you can remember that the Seahawks now have the best safety in all of football.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Visiting players have complained about the lack of things to do during Winnipeg road trips, poor hotels, and even lack of Wi-Fi. It’s a bit of a reach but there really aren’t many reasons to root against some of the best fans in hockey. If you’re a picky traveler, maybe don’t root for Winnipeg.
Why you should root for them: You can see the benefits of being in the no state income tax club. Like Washington, Texas has no state income tax. With the NHL’s nominal salary cap, this provides an advantage as players with identical cap hits can get more take-home pay in zero income tax state. As you watch the Stars, think of the sweet salary cap situation the Kraken will soon enjoy.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: They employ Corey Perry. Perry was widely hated by Pacific Division fans for his dirty play with the Anaheim Ducks. While other skills may have diminished as Perry aged, he showed that he still has the capacity for dirty play when he was given a game misconduct under a minute into this year’s Winter Classic for elbowing Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Kraken Fan Favorites
Carolina HurricanesEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Who doesn’t love Carolina’s “Bunch of Jerks?” The Hurricanes make quite a case to be the league leaders in fun. Their “Storm Surge” team celebrations were a hit last year and they were the victors of the most unusual game of this season, earning 42-year-old Zamboni driver David Ayres a win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canes also have an appreciation for our General Manager. Kraken GM Ron Francis left an unmistakable mark on the Hurricanes franchise as both a player and executive. The Hurricanes retired Francis’ number 10 jersey in 2006 for his contributions as a player and a large portion of the current Hurricanes roster was built by Francis in his time as GM from 2014-2018.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: If you’re looking for reasons not to root for the Hurricanes, there’s a man by the name of Don Cherry who might appeal more to you.
Washington CapitalsEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: I’ve heard it suggested that “the Washingtons should stick together.” If that’s not enough of a reason by itself to cheer for the Capitals, the Washington connections extend far beyond the name. Capitals winger T.J. Oshie grew up in Everett and is the all-time leading scorer among Washington-born NHLers. The Caps also have Brenden Dillon, who played 280 games over four years with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Aside from the local connections, the Capitals are a fun team to watch. Alex Ovechkin’s goal scoring prowess needs no explanation and goalie Braden Holtby is capable of game-stealing saves in the playoffs.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: Are you just a fan of recent expansion teams in general? The Capitals did win a Stanley Cup only two years ago by beating the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in the Finals.
Tampa Bay LightningEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Tyler Johnson.Tyler Johnson is a Washington hockey icon, He was born and raised in Spokane then went on to play 266 games for his hometown Spokane Chiefs in the WHL. Johnson found success early in his WHL career as a part of the Chiefs’ 2008 Memorial Cup winning team. In the last season of his Chiefs career, Johnson led the team in scoring with 115 points, good for 2nd most in the WHL that year. Although he went undrafted in the NHL, he’s become a top-6 forward with the Lightning and was instrumental in their 2015 Stanley Cup Final run.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: If you like big upsets, the Lightning are prone to being on the wrong end of them. Last year, the President’s Trophy winning Lightning were swept by the 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs in a thrillingly improbable series. If one of the top contenders bows out early this year, it might be the Lightning.
New York IslandersEmbed from Getty Images
Why you should root for them: Seattle Thunderbirds fans will surely remember Mat Barzal, who lit up the Western Hockey League just a few years ago, leading Seattle to its first and only Ed Chynoweth Cup win as WHL champions. Now Barzal and his elite speed are leading the Islanders to NHL success. The Islanders have passionate fans and a loyal following. The Kraken and Islanders are also new arena buddies. Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group, who are redeveloping Climate Pledge Arena, are also involved in building the Islanders’ new Belmont Park arena.
Why you shouldn’t root for them: “Will Mat Barzal leave us to go to Seattle?” It’s a question many Islanders fans are asking themselves. It’s hard to blame them after their franchise center John Tavares spurned the Islanders to play in his hometown of Toronto two years ago. While the prospect of Barzal bolting to Seattle when he hits unrestricted free agency is unlikely, Isles fans might have an inherent distrust of the Kraken from the beginning.